Thursday, January 30, 2014
2013 #2: THE COUNSELOR
Few films are as razor-sharp perfect from a narrative standpoint as Ridley Scott’s icy masterpiece The Counselor. Made with uncompromising formal exactitude, this elliptically structured neo-noir finds Scott working outside of his epic-sized wheelhouse and the results are brutal, nihilistic brilliance. Recalling crime genre staples like Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The American, and No Country for Old Men yet forging a sinister personality all its own, Cormac McCarthy’s elegantly vicious screenplay provides sharp, stylized dialogue and a unique avoidance of anything conventional or comforting, eschewing easily identifiable plot points and banal “set-up” conversations. Scott has never had a screenplay like the one McCarthy has given him, and it’s interesting to note that when Scott goes “small,” like he did in the criminally underrated Matchstick Men, he’s just as adept at the character stuff as he is at the action stuff. The film is a treasure trove of great and unique performances from the starriest of casts, including a career best Cameron Diaz in ultra-bitch mode to an amazingly stylized Javier Bardem, who adds another extremely memorable yet completely different addition to his gallery of villains. Brad Pitt scores some nasty laughs as a too-cool middle-man and Michael Fassbender does an intriguing, increasingly frenzied take on the classic noir dupe. The Counselor is the sort of film where the less you know about it the better it will play, and despite the lack of clear-cut and sympathetic characters, the way Scott and his ace creative team lull you into their sexy, dangerous world of murder and double-cross will have your head scrambling as to where this lethal story will end up. A hint: nowhere pretty or nice.